Is Suboxone safe to take while pregnant?

During pregnancy, everything a woman puts into her body can affect the developing fetus in her womb. This includes substances such as over-the-counter drugs, prescription medications, and illegal drugs. Because the fetus is so sensitive during pregnancy, it is recommended that pregnant women stay as drug-free as possible. However, this may be impossible for some women who need prescription medications to function properly in their daily lives.

Suboxone is a prescription medication given to patients to relieve pain and manage addiction to narcotics. It is classified as a combination medication because it contains buprenorphine, an opioid partial agonist and the opioid antagonist, naloxone.

If you are wondering if you can take Suboxone while you are pregnant, schedule a meeting with your doctor. Your provider will be able to determine whether the benefits of the medication outweigh the risks in your specific situation.

Currently, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) classifies Suboxone as a pregnancy risk category C medication. This category indicates there is not enough research on human subjects for the FDA to consider Suboxone as completely safe for use during pregnancy.

Risks of taking Suboxone while pregnant

Babies born to mothers who have used Suboxone during pregnancy may be at greater risk of neonatal withdrawal syndrome (NAS). This syndrome occurs when pregnant women use opioids and their babies become dependent upon them. Symptoms of NAS include tremors, excessive crying, issues falling asleep, high-pitched crying, tight muscle tone, hyperactive reflexes, seizures, stuffy nose, sneezing, poor feeding, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, sweating, and fever.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that women who use opioid drugs like Suboxone may be putting their babies at risk for birth defects. These defects include:

  • Hydrocephaly: the excessive buildup of spinal fluid in the baby’s brain which puts dangerous amounts of pressure on the brain
  • Glaucoma
  • Congenital heart defects: abnormalities in the heart formation and structure
  • Spina bifida: a condition in which the baby’s spinal cord does not develop properly
  • Gastroschisis: a hole in the abdominal wall where the baby’s intestines stick out

Because of the risk of NAS and these birth defects, only use Suboxone during pregnancy if your doctor recommends it. An example of a situation where the benefits of Suboxone outweigh the risk is if a woman is addicted to heroin. In this case, it may be safer for the fetus to be exposed to Suboxone, which is helping the pregnant mother treat her addiction, than it is for the fetus to be exposed to heroin.

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.